Gaslighting is a behavior that has absolutely no place in a healthy relationship. Gaslighting can make you question your own sanity, leading you to believe that you’re always in the wrong, that your gaslighter is somehow in control of everything you do, and like every decision you make is the wrong one. The bottom line? Gaslighting is nothing less than emotional abuse, and I’m going to show you how to shut it down in a relationship.
Whether you’ve been gaslighted for days, weeks, or even years, this guide can help you identify, document, address, and potentially leave gaslighting altogether. No one wants to be abused, and a healthy relationship has no place for such behavior.
When you’ve been groomed for years by a gaslighter, it’s a little more difficult to see the examples of gaslighting in everyday situations. Gaslighting can occur at any time, but usually, a gaslighter will put on the charm when you first meet them. Some have a way of grooming their victims with their charms, and then one day, everything turns on its head and you’re suddenly at the mercy of their behavior.
The first step to shutting down gaslighting in your relationship is to identify in every aspect of your relationship. Some typical signs of gaslighting are:
- Constant lying and/or manipulating facts
- Distorting recollection of events or conversations to fit the gaslighter’s agenda and paint themselves in a better light
- Making everything your fault
- You’re starting to lose your sense of self
- You’re afraid to say or do anything you think might upset your gaslighter
- You apologize far too often
- You make excuses for their behavior, often reciting their own words in your head. I do this because you make me so angry that I can’t help it!
- You have become isolated from friends and family. Going to visit becomes a fight or argument.
- You’re losing interest in favorite activities
- The gaslighter will often tell you that others are always talking about you behind your back
- Insisting that you’re “crazy” or “losing it”
The power of a gaslighter lies in their ability to make you question your own reality. This is why it’s so important to make sure you’re documenting things, so you can be absolutely sure that you’re not crazy.
Which brings me to the next point. Document. Everything. If you think you’re being gaslighted, it’s time to pull your phone out and hit the record button. It’s easier than ever to document things with a full-blown computer at our fingertips. When your gaslighter goes on a rant, record it. It’s a good idea to not stick the camera in their face, of course, but the point is to document their behavior so you can look at it later when you’re calm. Then ask yourself—is this normal?
You can also start keeping a calendar. Mark important conversations or where you’ve been during certain time periods so that when your gaslighter attempts to distort facts later, you’ve got hard evidence to prove to yourself that you’re not crazy. Don’t worry about trying to prove anything to the abuser. They likely won’t heed anything you have to say, anyway. Or, they’ll try to spin it on you somehow.
The point of documentation is to gather evidence of your abuse and keep yourself sane. Being gaslighted can be terrifying, but having hard evidence to prove your sanity might just mean the difference between actually losing a piece of your sanity and keeping it all together. It can also be the catalyst you need to finally leave the relationship behind.
Once you’ve gathered your evidence, you have two choices. You can leave the relationship entirely, which I’ll go over in the next section, or you can address it and hope that your gaslighter finally realizes what they’re doing and seeks professional help. The latter is a stretch, but we tend to push ourselves for those we love.
If you decide to address a gaslighter, don’t hold back. Let them know exactly how their behavior has made you feel, the impact it’s had on your mental health, and how it’s destroying your relationship. You don’t have to be mean about it, but don’t sugarcoat things, either. They need to hear it like it is.
Your second choice, and probably the wiser of the two, is to leave the gaslighter behind for good. Gaslighters rarely change without professional help, and the entire basis of gaslighting is denial. A gaslighter doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with them. It was all you, remember?
Sometimes, it’s better to just leave the relationship behind and start over. This can be hard to do with good friends, family members, spouses, or partners, but remember—nobody deserves to be abused and treated like less than a person. It’s better to be alone for a bit than to be with someone who doesn’t love and respect you.